The Words of the Schroeder Family
Author's Notes: This is a children's story that I wrote while I was in Korea. I would like some feedback. I want to publish it, so if anyone knows a publisher that would take it on, please let me know.
In case you don't know, when the Korean people bury their dead, they build a mound over the grave. The importance of the person determines the size of the mound. Also, in the west we often say, 'Once Upon A Time' to introduce a story. The Korean tradition is 'When Tigers Smoked.'
Long ago, when Tigers smoked, there lived a small rabbit. This rabbit had a very sad life so she decided to leave the valley where she lived and try to find a new life in the mountains. One day, in the early spring, the little rabbit left her home and began to climb the mountain. She climbed and climbed, higher and higher until she thought she must surely be nearing the top, but when she looked up there was nothing but more mountains and thousands of trees.
Finally the little rabbit was so tired, she just couldn't go on. She sat down to rest, but didn't stay sitting for very long. She heard a noise behind her and when she slowly turned to look, there was a huge, fierce tiger. Her heart nearly stopped, her mouth went dry and she jumped up prepared to run.
The tiger, however, didn't seem ready to attack, so the little rabbit stayed very still. The tiger came slowly forward, held out her paw and said, "Hello. Did you just arrive here?" The little rabbit was so surprised that she could just nod her head. Then she remembered her manners and said, "Hello. Yes, I've just come here from the valley." "Ah," said the tiger, "I've just come from Mt. Baekdu." So, we're both new here." Very cautiously, the little rabbit held out her paw for the tiger to shake. (Now you may think this unusual for a tiger, but you must remember these were unusual times and all sorts of unexplained things happened in the days when tigers smoked.)
During the next few weeks, both the tiger and the rabbit were very busy. They had to find a place to live, furnishings had to be acquired and the job of settling into a new home had to be done. They saw each other periodically as their paths crossed, but neither had the time, or the energy, to stop and chat. Still, a budding friendship began between the two unlikely neighbors.
The tiger found a nice large den, under a sloping rock that offered protection both from the elements and any possible attackers. She spent time cleaning out the remnants left behind by the previous owner and arranging her furnishings. This took a long time as she had many belongings. Fortunately, the den was very large. Actually, it was too large for one tiger, but the tiger did not have time to think about that. After all, it was nearly summertime and food for the winter had to be obtained.
The little rabbit also found a burrow. It was small, but the rabbit did not have a lot of belongings. She found furnishings near her new home and, with a keen eye for spatial arrangements, managed to fit everything neatly into the small space. The important thing was that she had a warm, cozy home for the winter.
Both the tiger and the rabbit spent the summer gathering and storing food for the coming winter, so, again there was no time for socializing. Still, during their brief meetings, their friendship developed and blossomed in spite of the vast differences in their basic natures.
At long last, provisions were laid and the tiger and the rabbit found themselves with little to do but wait for the winter. One day, while out enjoying the fall foliage, the rabbit and the tiger met on the trail. "Hello," said the tiger. "Hello," replied the rabbit, "how are you?" "I am well," said the tiger, "how about you." "I am also well," said the rabbit, "did you find a nice den?" "Oh, yes," replied the tiger, "and you, did you find a nice burrow?" "Yes, indeed," said the rabbit, "would you like to come for a cup of tea?" "No, but thank you for inviting me." said the tiger.
It was a good thing, since it is very unlikely that the large tiger would have managed well in the small rabbit burrow. And so it went through the winter, tiger and rabbit encountering each other on the trail until spring once again poked her head out from under the snow. One day, while enjoying the lovely spring weather, the tiger and the rabbit ran into each other. "Oh, what a beautiful day!" exclaimed the tiger. "Yes," said the rabbit, "It's such a shame to waste it just strolling over familiar ground." "I have an idea," said the tiger, "let's go on a trip." "A trip?" queried the rabbit, "What a great idea. Where shall we go?" "Just follow me," said the tiger, "I know just where to go." And she bounded off, leaving the rabbit hard put to keep up.
They headed south for several days. At long last, just before the rabbit thought she was going to collapse from shear exhaustion, they arrived in the southernmost part of the country. The little rabbit had never seen such beautiful scenery, or such unusual animals. The trees were greener than green and the birds in the trees came in so many different and brilliant colors. The rabbit and the tiger walked slowly and quietly so as not to startle any of them as they looked and looked.
As they traveled, very often the tiger would tap the rabbit on the shoulder or pat her arm. At first, the rabbit found this rather disturbing because she wasn't used to being touched. Tigers, however, are very tactile and it was natural for her. Gradually the rabbit got used to it and actually found that she enjoyed it. Still, it caused the little rabbit to think seriously about her feelings towards the tiger.
The little rabbit had been seriously hurt in the past and was hesitant to allow herself to have any kind of feelings. However, she could not deny the growing feelings in her heart. She knew that she had to make a decision.
One night, as the tiger was sleeping, the little rabbit lay awake thinking about their relationship. It was a cold night and the tiger shivered with the cold. The little rabbit watched the tiger for a long time and then made a decision. She said quietly, "I love you," and snuggled close to the tiger in order to give her body heat to keep the tiger warm. The little rabbit was very happy with her decision and looked forward to a bright future.
The two traveled around for several weeks, but at long last it was time to go home. They had to get back in time to begin the summer gathering and hunting season or they would not have enough food to last them through the long cold winter. Although they hated to leave the beautiful South, the trip home went quickly and they were both happy to see their homes.
While in the South, the little rabbit made a decision. She decided to take the risk and love another being again. She began to love her friend the tiger. She was very afraid because she had been badly hurt in the past, but to live without love was unbearable. The little rabbit hoped her future would be better with love in it. The little rabbit's bright future, however, was not to be.
As time went on and the little rabbit loved the tiger more and more, the tiger seemed to go in the opposite direction and began to withdraw from the rabbit. As though afraid of the rabbit's love, the tiger lashed out against the rabbit each time the rabbit showed her love. The rabbit was very hurt, but couldn't believe that such a deep love could be so rejected. In spite of hurt upon hurt, the little rabbit loved the tiger more and more.
The tiger felt badly about hurting the rabbit and on occasion would apologize, but after each apology the tiger hurt the rabbit more than before. The little rabbit bore the pain and went on loving the tiger. Even though she knew that the tiger did not return her love, she continued to believe that if patient enough, eventually the tiger would change.
One day, however, the tiger lost her temper with the rabbit and in anger lashed out and struck the rabbit with claws extended. Her claws dug deeply into the rabbit's body and the rabbit knew she had been mortally wounded. Loving the tiger to the end, and not wanting the tiger to know how badly she was hurt, the little rabbit quietly crept away. The little rabbit made her way back to her burrow and there slipped from this world where she was unloved and very sad into a world of pure love and joy.
After awhile, the tiger calmed down and felt badly about the way she had treated the faithful rabbit. She followed the trail left by the rabbit and became alarmed as she found the rabbit's blood dotting the ground. At long last the tiger came to the rabbit's burrow and found the little rabbit. When she realized that the little rabbit was dead, the tiger let out a great cry of anguish, but it was too late, the rabbit was gone. In great sorrow, the tiger closed the entrance to the rabbit's burrow, leaving a mound of earth covering the grave. Then the tiger lay down beside the burial mound and wept. The tiger lost interest in everything and stayed by the burial mound and mourned her faithful friend.
After three years a monk was walking through the forest one day and came upon the tiger. The tiger was very weak and the monk knew that she was dying. The tiger told the monk the story of the loyal little rabbit who loved completely in spite of never having that love returned. When the tiger finished the story, she closed her eyes and went to join the little rabbit. The monk built a burial mound over the tiger next to the mound of the rabbit and went off to the village where he told the story to others. From that time on, the people built burial mounds whenever someone died in memory of the tiger and the faithful little rabbit.